“It is out of our surrender that God can begin to use us and bless us.” —A. W. Tozer
So my daughter is turning thirty in a few weeks. Thirty.
Watching my daughters do the mom thing has caused me to reflect. As a grandmother, I’m constantly trying to remember things as they ask me, “Did you do such and such?” Racking my brain, I just can’t remember all the day-to-day stuff. They call it “mom brain” today.
But, for grandmas, it’s just plain ol’ forgetfulness.
Caroline turning thirty has indeed taken me back. I was not super spiritual at that time in my life, and my twenties were nothing to write home about. But I had settled into my walk with Christ and knew my thirties would be special. I got a brand new journal (because that’s what we do!) and began my pursuit. Jesus’ ministry years began in his thirties. I wanted these years to count.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” —2 Peter 3:18
I started going to women’s Bible study, Precepts Ministries studies by Kay Arthur to be exact, and they were intense. I had a three-year-old at home and was desperately trying to get pregnant with our second child. Those were dark days, I will have to say.
I was learning so much in a bible study but still remember being haunted by the lies of the enemy whispering in my ear that I wasn’t a good enough mom to have another child. Lies.
“The fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous person avails much.” —James 5:16
It would still take a few more years before I would awaken from my spiritual slumber and seriously begin pursuing Christ, but one thing I have learned in the years since that moment is that my failures and shortcomings have not disappeared.
My prayer life grew exponentially during those days. Isn’t that the case? When we long for something or are in the midst of the struggle, our prayer life soars. Mine did. But I learned during this time that I loved talking to God. I loved his presence. I loved the relationship and communion. I didn’t want to stop talking to God. Ever.
A year and a half into my thirties, God blessed us with another baby girl. She was the apple of our eye and the answer to our prayers.
Our girls were four-and-a-half years apart, and we were a family of four. Life was good. But I felt a tug on my heart to surrender my daily plan and rhythm to God. I felt like things were on cruise control and that wasn’t okay. Little did I know that the trajectory of my life would change in my thirties.
God’s call on my life was this: OBEDIENCE. TOTAL AND COMPLETE OBEDIENCE.
What does that look like for a mom of little ones? Did you want me to do more for you, God?
I realized that he didn’t want me to DO more for him or anyone else. He wanted me to continue doing what I was doing. He just wanted me to include him.
If there was ever a burden I would wish to take off my children’s shoulders, it would be the pressure to be seen as having it all together.
So here’s what happened. I started including God in our everyday life. I prayed about everything. Talked to him all day. I prayed about what we would eat. What we would wear. Where we would go. You get the picture. I was putting him in the driver’s seat of my life and I was in the passenger seat.
It was a little awkward at first. But what I learned was everything. What I learned was that God cares about what we eat, what we wear, and where we go. He cares about the little quarrels, the major fights, the bedtime routine, and the mundane moments. He’s in all of it. And He cares.
This exercise in obedience manifested itself in a powerful way one spring day. Here’s an excerpt from my book, Raising Sinners:
When I was in my early 30’s I wanted to go deeper in my faith. Our girls were young and I really wanted to teach them the ways of the Lord by modeling His ways. So I began a prayer journey. I prayed about everything. What we ate. What we wore. Where we went. Everything. One day we were on the way to visit my grandfather at his nursing home in Richardson and I felt the Spirit of the Lord leading me in a different direction. It was as though the car was being driven by someone else. I went with it. We were driving down a street I had never driven. I was going with it. Down the street I saw a man walking with a red Texas Rangers cap on. My grandfather was a devout Rangers fan. As we drove closer to the man walking down the street I realize it was indeed my grandfather! Nervous, anxious, afraid, I got out of the car and asked him to get in. He obliged and we took him back to his facility . . . a mile and a half away! He had escaped and was heading back to Paris, Texas, where he was from.
I share that story to make this point: had I not gone on that pursuit to know God more, to sit at his feet and trust Him with the little things (food, clothes, visits), I would have missed out on this opportunity to see Him work and USE ME. If we don’t KNOW the Spirit’s still soft voice, we won’t recognize it. If we don’t pray and communicate with God we might miss Him talking to us. This is a divine union. Preparing ahead and leaving room for the Holy Spirit to work and lead in our lives allows us to not only grow spiritually but to show our children how God works when we make ourselves available to Him.
Those early thirties, for me, defined my walk with Christ. They proved to me that we don’t just pray and read our Bibles because they are on the list of things good Christian girls do.
We pray and read because the God of the universe is there.
To the young mom in her thirties:
Listen, you will not parent perfectly.
I know what you’re thinking because I’ve talked to many of you through the years. I know you are busy and overwhelmed. I know you are living in the moment and trying your hardest to be the best mom possible . . . and make it until bedtime.
I realize it’s Groundhog Day most days. So keep things as simple as possible. Turn on your praise and worship music. Turn off the television. This will block the noise and minister to your spirit.
Read your Bible every day. It’s your lifeline, even if it’s at naptime while reading the children’s Bible to your son. And talk to God. Let him in. He understands your days. If you have to sit an extra seat at your kitchen table to help you remember he is there, then do it. Include him.
He loves you so. And so do I.